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  1. Kuroi Hitsuji  [Type A] (SINGLE+BLU-RAY) (Japan Version) Kuroi Hitsuji [Type A] (SINGLE+BLU-RAY) (Japan Version) Keyakizaka46
    Song of the Black Sheep
    February 28, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Keyakizaka46 delivers another powerfully empathetic and dissonant teen anthem in their new single Kuroi Hitsuji. As indicated by the title, this song is for all the "black sheep" out there. In comparison to singles like Garasu wo Ware! and Fukyouwaon, the song's sound is softer and more melodic, but the themes are no less incisive and impactful. Kuroi Hitsuji opens moodily with somber piano chords, and then picks up the tempo in low-pitched verses tightly packed with the suffocating feelings of being that person who doesn't fit in – and doesn't want to. The lyrics offer simple yet specific examples and experiences that connect readily with listeners: taking the long way home to avoid... [read more]
  2. Boku no Koto (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Boku no Koto (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Mrs. GREEN APPLE
    A song for the good days and the bad days
    January 31, 2019 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Everyone could use an encouraging song to start out the new year with, and my theme song for this tiring January was Mrs. GREEN APPLE's Boku no Koto. As a support song for Japan's national high school soccer tournament, Boku no Koto naturally carries an inspiring message to cheer on young people, but it's not exactly a cheerily positive song. Instead, the song delivers empathy and reassurance for both the good days and the bad days. Opening quietly with a soothing guitar melody and gentle vocals, Boku no Koto connects with softly self-reflecting lyrics in the first verse: "What's the difference between me and you? / I know that we're all living creatures / But I'm frightened by something."... [read more]
  3. Mirai no Theme / Uta no Kisha (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Mirai no Theme / Uta no Kisha (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Yamashita Tatsuro
    Music from Mirai, Sounds from the Past
    September 6, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When I first heard Yamashita Tatsuro's latest single, I smiled at the singer-songwriter's timeless ability to write new songs that sound like old songs. At the time, I had not yet watched Hosoda Mamoru's animated feature film Mirai for which the songs were made. After watching Mirai, I now smile at the songs for capturing the sentiments of the film so perfectly in melody form. Yamashita previously created the beautiful theme song Bokura no Natsu no Yume for Hosoda's 2009 film Summer Wars (an acoustic live version of that song is included on this single). For Mirai, he made the theme song Mirai no Theme ("Theme of Mirai") and ending theme Uta no Kisha ("Music Train"), which are delightful... [read more]
  4. Ryuusei / Yakusoku (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Ryuusei / Yakusoku (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Aoi Eir
    Aoi Eir makes strong return from hiatus
    June 14, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    After being on hiatus for all of 2017 for health reasons, Aoi Eir returns this year with her signature clear-voiced rock-flavored pop in her 14th double A-side single of Yakusoku and Ryuusei. Yakusoku ("Promise") was unveiled online in February to announce her return. Aoi co-wrote the soaring medium-tempo ballad with frequent collaborator Shigenaga Ryosuke, who also composed and arranged. From the first line, one can already tell that she poured her feelings during hiatus into the lyrics: "In the normalcy of daily life / I suddenly realized that I was singing." Aoi directs the song's simple and sincere message of longing and gratitude to the fans who waited for her and gave her strength to... [read more]
  5. If - Mata Aetara - (SINGLE+ DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) If - Mata Aetara - (SINGLE+ DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) DAY6
    DAY6's Japanese debut
    March 28, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When Korean idols advance into the Japanese music market, they almost always start out by remaking Korean hits. This is understandably the safest route as it requires less investment and leverages songs that are already familiar to Japanese K-pop fans. The notable exception to this standard remake strategy is JYP Entertainment. Both 2PM and GOT7 debuted in Japan with original singles, and Twice's first Japanese single was an original song. Following in the footsteps of their labelmates, DAY6 debuts in Japan with the original single If -Mata Aetara-. As one of the few (instrument-playing) bands in the K-pop idol industry, DAY6 has consistently put out quality self-produced music since... [read more]
  6. Doushite Koishite Konna (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Doushite Koishite Konna (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Uno Misako
    Uno Misako's refreshing solo debut
    February 20, 2018 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    In the past several years, quite a few of the AAA members have branched out to solo music careers, with Nishijima Takahiro (Nissy) and Hidaka Mitsuhiro (Sky-Hi) being especially active as solo artists. Uno Misako now joins the solo ranks with her first official single Doushite Koishite Konna ("Why is Love Like This?"). Doushite Koishite Konna contrasts sweet melody and singing with Uno's self-penned melancholic lyrics about love and separation. The medium-tempo song is co-composed by Koudai Iwatsubo and Jazzin'park's Kubota Shingo, who also participated on Nissy's recent solo album Hocus Pocus2. The song's mellow arrangement brings a soul-freeing atmosphere to the song, particularly in the... [read more]
  7. PROJECT-1 EP [Type Red] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) PROJECT-1 EP [Type Red] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Block B PROJECT-1 | Block B
    Block B's vocalists shine in Japan collaboration project
    September 22, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Block B often seems to live or die around Zico, but the other members are also talented in their own right. Through Block B Project-1 in Japan, Tae Il, B-Bomb, Jae Hyo, U-Kwon and P.O get the chance to shine in a different setting through original collaborations with other artists. U-Kwon and P.O duly carry forth the mantle of Block B's hip-hop sound in WINNER, a hot-blooded track with bombastic beats and a catchy hook. No one would accuse the self-hyping hip-hop bop of being deep and meaningful, but it's the kind of high-spirited musical bragging that's great for blasting at top volume. Though the song's composition and arrangement are on-trend to the point of being too familiar sounding,... [read more]
  8. Yume Makase (Japan Version) Yume Makase (Japan Version) SOIL & "PIMP" SESSIONS
    Detective jazz
    August 24, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    This season, TBS is airing the quirky detective drama Hello Harinezumi, based on the eighties manga about a scrappy private investigator agency. The series' writer/director One Hitoshi has a great track record with music in past productions like Moteki and the 2014 detective drama River's Edge Ookawabata Tanteisha, and Hello Harinezumi is no exception. For River's Edge, it was Ego-Wrappin' that supplied the detective jazz sound. This time, it's jazz ensemble Soil & "Pimp" Sessions that created the outstanding music for the entire Hello Harinezumi soundtrack. The band collaborates with Radwimps' Noda Yojiro for the series' suave and classy theme song Yume Makase. The laid-back jazz number... [read more]
  9. Love ☆ Queen (SINGLE + DVD + PHOTOBOOK) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Love ☆ Queen (SINGLE + DVD + PHOTOBOOK) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) E-girls
    The new-look E-girls
    July 31, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    When LDH launched E-girls in 2011, the group was meant to be an entertainment project that gathered the members of Dream, Happiness and Flower. In actuality, over the last six years, this project group in name was more well-known and active than the official groups from which it drew members. In June, LDH restructured the organization chart of its girl groups by creating the new project collective of and redesignating E-girls as a group under that umbrella. Besides the reshuffling, the E-girls member lineup was slimmed down to 11 with the exit of eight members including Ami. Less than two months since the announcement of the new changes, the 11-member E-girls start afresh with... [read more]
  10. Peace Sign [Peace Ver.] (SINGLE+DVD)  (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Peace Sign [Peace Ver.] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Yonezu Kenshi
    Yonezu Kenshi's 2nd consecutive anime theme
    June 30, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    First finding popularity as a Vocaloid composer, Yonezu Kenshi has successfully elevated his music from Niconico to the mainstream thanks to his eminently listenable rock pop sound and some well-positioned tie-in collaborations. After scoring a hit earlier in the year with the March Comes in Like a Lion theme song Orion, the talented singer-songwriter climbs the chart again with another anime theme song single in Peace Sign, the exhilarating first opening for the second season of My Hero Academia. Written, composed and arranged by Yonezu, Peace Sign coasts on an uptempo melody and tight beats that quickly establish a free-wheeling feeling of exuberance and energy. The electric guitar-driven... [read more]
  11. Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Togetsukyo - Kimi Omou - (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Kuraki Mai
    Crimson love song
    April 21, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Kuraki Mai's two most recent singles – Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- and Yesterday Love – are both theme songs for the Detective Conan anime franchise, but they couldn't be more different. While Yesterday Love, released in January, is a dated-sounding electronic pop song straight out of the nineties vault, her latest Togetsukyo -Kimi Omou- goes back even further in time to incorporate traditional Japanese music elements into a melodic and melancholic ballad. Aligning with the Kansai autumn setting of the movie Detective Conan: Crimson Love Letter for which the single serves as theme song, Kuraki penned a wistful love song that evokes the imagery of crimson leaves. The title and lyrics refer to the... [read more]
  12. Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Inochi ni Fusawashii (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) amazarashi
    The Light and Darkness of amazarashi
    February 27, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    amazarashi's songs often sound as epic, evocative and world-encompassing as a fantasy RPG score so the band's latest crossover with Square Enix's action-adventure game NieR: Automata fits like second skin. Frontman Akita Hiromu wrote and composed the theme song Inochi ni Fusawashii ("Deserving of Life") based on game director Taro Yoko's story about combat androids dispatched to a post-apocalyptic Earth to fight machines in a proxy war. Ever the storyteller, Akita interprets the game's world and themes into a highly lyrical and melodic musical journey about lonely souls forging a precious connection and asserting the value of life in a broken world. The story begins over dissonant beats and... [read more]
  13. SUPER FLY (Japan Version) SUPER FLY (Japan Version) EXILE THE SECOND
    Super funky
    February 23, 2017 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    EXILE THE SECOND made a strong return last year with a trilogy of singles and the launch of a nationwide arena tour, and it looks like the group is carrying forth the EXILE TRIBE dance music mantle this year as well with the consecutive releases of the single Super Fly and album Born to be Wild. THE SECOND delivers a super infectious and upbeat dance jam in Super Fly. Written and co-composed by Shokichi, the exuberant song has you nodding along in no time with addictive beats and cheeky lyrics in the opening rap verse, but the real fun is in the playful funk arrangement, the brass-underlined bridge and the catchy dance-out chorus. In comparison to their forcefully cool urban EDM tracks,... [read more]
  14. Unmei no I Love You (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Unmei no I Love You (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) chay
    Retro pop sounds
    December 1, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Since her debut, singer-songwriter chay has often integrated retro elements and stylings into her hearty, guitar-strumming ballads and pop numbers. She completely embraces the retro pop sound for her charming new single Unmei no I Love You ("Fated I Love You"). Co-written by chay, the sweet title track is actually a wedding gift for her sister. Accordingly, the lyrics drip with happy thoughts and blessings for that special day and destined love. The wedding song's joyous message is matched by its fun Motown-style melody by Koichi Tabo who has produced and composed chay's last few singles. The song lightly channels Motown sound with its distinctly catchy chord structure and the use of... [read more]
  15. TIME FLIES (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) TIME FLIES (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Tosaka Hiroomi | Ace of Spades
    Epic HiGH & LOW music collaboration
    October 25, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Having never watched any of the HiGH & LOW dramas and movies, I can't speak to the quality of all the different parts of EXILE TRIBE's ambitious multimedia project, but HiGH & LOW has definitely yielded some great music. Earlier this year in June, the project's songs were released together in the HiGH & LOW Original Best Album, which was basically a summation of the LDH music empire (sans an actual EXILE song). Besides the usual suspects, the album saw the exciting return of Ace of Spades, the band formed by Glay guitarist Hisashi, unkie bassist Tokie, Mad Capsule Market drummer Motokatsu and EXILE's own Takahiro. The limited-time project band had previously only released one single back in... [read more]
  16. Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Matsuda Seiko
    Meeting of two Japan music legends
    September 27, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    Matsuda Seiko and Yoshiki are both legendary names in Japanese music, but they're artists one wouldn't typically associate together. The eternal diva and iconic rocker have now finally crossed musical paths through the beautifully lyrical single Bara no youni Saite, Sakura no youni Chitte ("Bloom like a Rose, Fall like Cherry Blossoms"). Written and composed by Yoshiki, the slow and stirring ballad sounds like a song from the Showa era. Its composition, arrangement and lyrics all deliberately carry forth a very "Japan" sound and aesthetic. Accompanied by piano and strings, Matsuda Seiko croons calm melancholy in that unmistakable sweet lilting voice that captivated a generation of Japanese... [read more]
  17. insane dream / us (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) insane dream / us (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition)(Japan Version) Aimer
    Aimer's alt-rock collaborations
    July 27, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    2016 has been the year of collaborations for Aimer so far, and it's produced some of her best songs yet. After collaborating with EGOIST's chelly for ninelie in May, she teams up with One OK Rock's Taka and Ling Tosite Sigure's TK for her latest double A-side's insane dream and us, which take her music in a more alternative direction. Composed and produced by Taka, insane dream is a powerful rock number with striking arrangement and instrumentation that encompass the listener in echoing vocals, pulsating beats, blaring guitar effects and a mesmerizing bass line. The song's opening and verses have a haunting, dizzingly agitated quality that matches the song's title and lyrics. It floats... [read more]
  18. Puzzle [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Puzzle [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) CNBLUE
    CNBLUE's Japanese discography is better
    May 19, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    While many Korean artists simply rehash their K-pop hits for Japanese singles, CNBLUE has written original material for every Japanese single since debut. Furthermore, the band seems to have free rein to pursue a rawer Britpop sound in their Japanese releases without the obligation of chart-friendly hooks. As such, not only is CNBLUE's Japanese discography as essential as their Korean discography, their Japanese singles often surpass their Korean plugs. Written and co-composed by Jung Yong Hwa, the band's latest Japanese single Puzzle is pitched as their first "wedding song" so it's understandably more upbeat and pop-leaning than most of their other Japanese singles. The kind of song that... [read more]
  19. Silent Majority [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Silent Majority [Type A] (SINGLE+DVD) (Japan Version) Keyakizaka46
    Don't be a part of the silent majority
    April 19, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    A group of teenage girls in matching uniforms singing and dancing in unison might not be the most convincing spokesperson for nonconformity, but Keyakizaka46's debut single Silent Majority offers a surprisingly defiant youth anthem. A sister group of Nogizaka46, Keyakizaka46 is the latest addition to producer Akimoto Yasushi's pop culture-dominating pantheon of idol girl groups. Though it may take a while to establish what makes Keyakizaka46 stand out from the other groups, they've already scored the highest ever debut week sales for a female artist, displacing HKT48's record from three years ago. Silent Majority also gets my vote for the best debut single from an AKB-related... [read more]
  20. Sakura (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Sakura (SINGLE+DVD) (First Press Limited Edition) (Japan Version) Crystal Kay
    The melancholic sound of spring
    March 31, 2016 Picked By Sanwei See all this editor's picks
    The annual J-pop deluge of sakura-themed songs gets off to a strong early start this year with Crystal Kay's lovely spring single Sakura. Sakura (Track 1) begins straight away with the chorus and its poetic opening line "Cherry blossom petals soar into the sky." Crystal Kay's beautiful voice soars with the wistful lyrics against a strumming guitar. The medium-tempo number contrasts a bright and uplifting melody with melancholic lyrics recalling a past love, delivered in Crystal Kay's confident vocals. The overall effect is refreshing, conveying a both sad yet positive mood that feels just right for spring. With its pronounced beats, silky flow and increasingly catchy chorus, the R&B-leaning... [read more]
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